The Growth Op results out of step with much of the existing literature, with investigators finding weed users are equal to or more likely to exercise than non-users…

U.S. researchers assessing the relationship between cannabis use and exercise in young and middle-aged adults were somewhat surprised to find that, contrary to much of the available literature, there may be a positive link between the two.

Results of the study — which were published pre-proof in Preventive Medicine this week — indicate that “marijuana use is not significantly related to exercise, counter to conventional wisdom that marijuana users are less likely to be active.”

Indeed, “the only significant estimates suggest a positive relationship, even among heavier users during the past 30 days,” study authors write. “These findings are at odds with much of the existing literature, which generally shows a negative relationship between marijuana use and exercise,” they add.

“Marijuana users are commonly portrayed in the popular press as having a sedentary, non-active lifestyle,” the study points out. But authors cite a study published in 2019 that found “individuals who reported using cannabis either shortly before or after exercise engaged in 43.4 more minutes of weekly aerobic exercise on average than individuals who did not use cannabis shortly before/after exercising.”

To flesh out the link between cannabis use and exercise, if any, investigators in the most recent study used data from the two most recent waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health.

They considered cannabis-use variables — any current use and frequency of use during the past 30 days — and compared those to exercise variables — any form of exercise/sport during the past seven days and the number of days participating in each of those. The types of exercise ranged widely from cycling and skateboarding to taking part in team sports such as football, soccer, hockey and basketball, strength training, golfing, bowling and walking for exercise.

Any light shed on the relationship between cannabis use and exercise may be telling since studies often explore if using substances — not just cannabis — are determinants of health. With regard to cannabis, decriminalization, increased access and decreased perception of risk continue to unfold.

“Almost one-third of Americans believe that smoking marijuana is safer than smoking cigarettes.” /
“Almost one-third of Americans believe that smoking marijuana is safer than smoking cigarettes.” / PHOTO BY ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS

When it comes to the last point, “almost one-third of Americans believe that smoking marijuana is safer than smoking cigarettes, and 81 per cent believe it has at least one health benefit,” the study notes.

“As additional states legalize the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, perhaps its impact on exercise, one of the leading social determinants of health, is not necessarily a primary concern,” study authors conclude.

“Claims that marijuana legalization will lead individuals to become more sedentary, less active, and, therefore, less healthy, are not supported by our empirical findings. However, it is difficult to draw clear policy implications until further research has been conducted,” they point out.

study published in 2015 concluded, “it is important to develop a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between cannabis and exercise, specifically the potential effects of use on exercise performance, motivation and recovery.”

The most recent study agrees more information is needed on the possible links between cannabis use — about 16 per cent of U.S. adults report using weed and the percentage tripled between 2003 and 2018 — and social determinants of health. “It is important for researchers and policymakers to acquire a more thorough understanding of whether and how marijuana use relates to exercise and other social determinants of health in the general population,” study authors suggest.